The Candidate parents guide

The Candidate Parent Guide

Manipulation, underhanded dealings and the difficulty of maintaining one's standards are all questioned in this film that underscores the challenges of political life.

Overall B-

Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, a California lawyer who is talked into standing as a Democratic candidate running against an aging Republican incumbent. Without the worry of winning, Bill is aggressively outspoken during the campaign. But when actually getting elected becomes a possibility, he finds his ethics being swayed by the results of opinion polls.

Release date August 23, 1972

Violence B
Sexual Content B-
Profanity C+
Substance Use C+

Why is The Candidate rated PG? The MPAA rated The Candidate PG

Run Time: 110 minutes

Parent Movie Review

If election campaigns leave you feeling a little cold, then The Candidate likely won’t warm you to the process. In 1973, this well-written, but cynical script about the people in politics won an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. In it, Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, a California lawyer who has been exposed to the public service arena although he’s never held office. Watching his father, John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas), wrangle his way around the governor’s mansion seems to have dissuaded Bill from ever seeking a post.

However, Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) is a campaign manager looking for a Democratic candidate to run against an aging Republican incumbent. He believes Bill has the youthful image, the famous name and the popular appeal to make him a contender—though he tells Bill he isn’t expecting a win. Still Marvin lures the young lawyer into running against Senator Jarmon (Don Porter) with the promise that the liberally minded attorney can say anything he wants about the current issues.

Without the worry of winning, Bill becomes an aggressively outspoken advocate for abortion, health reform, employment and environmental issues. And though his Democratic position isn’t popular in the heavily Republican stronghold, Bill’s openness (and the lack of any other Democratic contenders) appeals to many citizens and before he knows it he easily wins his party’s senatorial nomination. Now he is faced with the prospect of a humiliating loss against the Republicans in the upcoming election unless he runs a serious campaign in the final contest.

But as he becomes driven by his standing in the opinion polls, his strong political statements on dicey issues are reduced to platitudes and replaced with snappy slogans and slick campaign posters. The trappings of his newfound popularity also entangle him. When women throw themselves at him at rallies and expose their underclothing to catch his attention, Bill’s supposedly upstanding moral values waver as well. (Bill is late for an important meeting because he is supposedly accepting sexual favors from one of his female staffers.)

Manipulation, underhanded dealings and the difficulty of maintaining one’s standards are all questioned in this film that underscores the challenges of political life. But before sharing this movie with their older teens, parents should be aware of the frequent, historical depictions of cigarette and alcohol use. The script also contains a moderate number of profanities including one sexually suggestive expletive.

Still, with some type of elections always on the horizon, The Candidate will hopefully encourage voters to look more closely at the nominees running for office and demand that they offer more than catchy clichés or clever sound bites for their campaign platform.

Directed by Michael Ritchie. Starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Melvyn Douglas. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release August 23, 1972. Updated

The Candidate
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Candidate rated PG? The Candidate is rated PG by the MPAA

Violence: A man speeds down a busy street. A character punches a man in the face. A married couple argues briefly. A man kicks a vending machine and yells at another character.

Sexual Content: Women expose their underwear to get a man’s attention. A scene suggests that a married man is involved in an extramarital affair. Women attempt to kiss a man. A man voices his support for abortions. A woman asks a man to sign her bra-covered chest. A man is seen without his shirt on.

Language: The script contains over two-dozen profanities including scatological slang, terms of Deity and a sexually suggestive expletive used in a non-sexual context.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Frequent alcohol and cigarette use is seen, mostly among secondary characters in a historical setting. A politician shares a beer with young adults on the beach. Characters drink or smoke at home, at work and on the political trail.

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More parents' guide for The Candidate after the break...

The Candidate Parents' Guide

What does this film reveal about the political campaign trail? Who proves to be the real power? What voter friendly qualities does Bill McKay have that Marvin Lucas does not? Does Bill become a willing participant in Marvin’s plot?

Why are the Democrats upset when the news anchors begin predicting a Republican win before the voting polls are closed?

How difficult would it be for a politician to avoid the trappings of power and entitlement that seem to come with the role in this movie? Does this script cast an especially negative view of the political machine and the people involved in it? Are all elected people equally susceptible to the negative impact of holding office? What kind of support do upstanding politicians deserve?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Candidate movie is October 29, 1997. Here are some details…

The Candidate releases to DVD on October 29, 1997.

Related home video titles:

The deciding vote for the next president of the United States comes down to one uninterested American in Swing Vote. A Depression era politician’s campaign ambitions turn into a quest for personal power in All the King’s Men. A tense showdown occurs between Richard Nixon and report David Frost during an interview following the Watergate Scandal in Frost/Nixon. A naïve leader of a youth organization gets unwittingly involved in a back door deal when he is chosen as a "puppet" politician by some powerful businessmen in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

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